Navy Used Flawed Data for Base-Closing List, GAO Says
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy used flawed data to select bases for closure or realignment, congressional investigators told a base-closings panel Friday, contending the service will end up with more space than it needs if the panel, lawmakers and President Bush go along.
Frank Conahan of the General Accounting Office told the panel that it should not simply revise the proposed list, despite what the agency said were inaccuracies in the information it was based on.
Rather, he said, it is imperative that the Navy and Pentagon provide the Base Closure and Realignment Commission with specific details about how it arrived at its recommendation to close nine bases and realign 17.
″The Navy and the Defense Department owe you people that information,″ Conahan testified before the commission at a Capitol Hill hearing.
Navy spokesman Lt. Phillip McGuinn said the service has complied with the base-closings law, submitting records of meetings, four volumes of books and other documents that reflect ″the exhaustive study the Navy conducted.″
″The Navy has provided information about its procedures to the GAO and the commission in a timely and open manner and will continue to provide any additional information desired by the commission,″ McGuinn said.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney recommended last month the closure of 43 domestic bases and the realignment of 28 others, including major facilities such as Fort Ord in California and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
The list drew criticism in Congress where a number of lawmakers complained that their local facilities were unfairly singled out. Members of Congress are certain to use the GAO testimony faulting the Navy in arguing to keep open naval installations in their states.
Lawmakers and affected communities are also expected to cite separate General Accounting Office concerns about a possible increase in the amount of time it would take for the Defense Department to recoup its money on a base closing.
The GAO said that the Pentagon’s estimates on base-closing costs and savings did not rely on fiscal 1991 data so there could be reductions in the estimated annual savings and increases in the payback period for several closures.
For example, it said, a 50 percent increase in the one-time cost of shutting down some facilities could increase the payback period from 10 years to 100 years.
The General Accounting Office, in a 137-page report released Thursday and in Friday’s testimony before the commission, said the Army and Air Force documented their selections adequately as part of a Pentagon base-closing process.
The Navy, however, failed to produce adequate data on its selections, making it difficult to assess the military value of the bases, the GAO said.
″The fundamental information was flawed,″ Conahan told the commission.
The Navy established a Base Structure Committee but found that the input from its working group favored keeping bases open, the GAO reported. The Navy then turned to its various Navy and Marine Corps headquarters officials and representatives for recommendations.
″The data simply was not used by the committee that was set up. We don’t know how those recommendations came out,″ Conahan said.
The outcome is that the Navy will have excess space to berth its ships even if the bases recommended for closure are accepted by Bush and Congress, the agency said.
The excess capacity would exceed the space of the homeports the Navy plans for Staten Island, N.Y.; Everett, Wash.; Ingleside, Texas; Mobile, Ala., and Pascagoula, Miss., Conahan said.
The eight-member commission must approve or amend the list before sending it on to Bush and Congress on July 1.
A member of the commission, Arthur Levitt, said the panel is ″in a fish bowl″ and the suggestion that it had received incomplete or inaccurate data was disturbing.
″They simply did not comply with the guidance they received,″ Levitt said of the Navy.
″That’s right,″ Conahan replied.